By Gilberto Aguirre, former ED of CEPAD
Since the 18th of April, 2018 Nicaragua has faced a very painful, cruel and tense situation which is difficult to resolve. The trigger of this situation was a reform made by the Social Security Institution, INSS, which announced on the 16th of April and was officially instituted on the 18th of April. These reforms proposed to increase the amount workers would pay into social security and reduce by 5% what retirees were receiving. This was a unilateral decision made by the government without taking into account the other sectors that had asked that this decision be discussed before approving any reforms. Recommendations by the IMF were also not taken into account. The Superior Private Business Council was against the resolution.
This unleashed a series of protests, especially from the University students in Managua. These protests extended to principal cities in the country between the 19th and 21st of April and they were very active in the principal universities in the country. There were also groups of government sympathizers who supported these efforts. All of this led to confrontations between protesters and the police. The action of the police in these days was very violent, resulting in deaths and wounded. To date there is no one list of those who have been killed and wounded because there are at least 4 different lists provided by different organizations.
Since April there have violent confrontations that have resulted in the following (different statistics by different organizations):
- A total of 251 deaths according to the Nicaraguan Center of Human Rights as of the 10th of July, 351 according to the Nicaraguan Association Pro Human Rights as of the 19th of July, 235 according to the Permanent Commission of Human Rights as of the 11th of July, 264 according to the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights as of the 19th of July and 21 according to the Commission of Truth, Justice and Peace as of the 12th of July.
- More than 1,200 wounded according to the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights as of the 6th of July, more than 2,400 according to the Permanent Commission of Human Rights as of the 18th of June and 2,100 according to the Nicaraguan Association Pro Human Rights as of the 10th of July.
- 130 people detained according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights since the 23rd of April and 438 according to the Interamerican Comission of Human Rights.
All of this violence, which includes burning of public and private buildings, radio stations, homes and supermarkets has produced a tense environment in the whole country. More than anything the presence of paramilitary groups with their faces covered with bandanas and masks has caused fear in the population.
We can talk about the violence unleashed by the police and government forces, then violence by the delinquents and vandals that destroyed and burned goods and properties, the roadblocks that were initially put up by the population to protect themselves from the delinquents which then were taken over by delinquents who impeded access to free movement of people and charged the population to pass. Another phase which we are still in, is the presence of the paramilitary forces and the police who are arbitrarily detaining people who participated in the protests which has obligated many people to flee to other countries.
Unfortunately we have felt a lot of hate, bad blood that has enveloped many families in Nicaragua. The government has not helped with this. They have not taken adequate measures to stop the violence in the country and instead they have contributed to the increase of violence. The biggest pain we feel as Nicaraguans is the violence that has been used against the population and especially young people. All of this has been a result of protesting against the government.
The media have also not contributed to calm, instead they have dedicated to providing information in a biased manner, depending on the political position of the owners of each station.
Even though originally the protests were spurred by the reform to the Social Security system the response of the government provoked discontent over other issues from the reform of the Constitution for the presidential reelection to the ‘trees of life’ that the Vice- President adorned the capital and other cities, passing the protests against the interoceanic canal that the government had planned. Everything that the government had done to benefit the population in the areas of education, health, infrastructure, tourism and communications was forgotten. We can talk about a before and after April 18th, 2018.
There was a dialogue that was promoted to solve the crisis, but the same dialogue is now in crisis itself. It has not advanced as was hoped. For this reason we still don’t see a clear future. We all believe that dialogue is the solution but the dialogue has not advanced due to positions of the different sides.
The churches affiliated with CEPAD have sent two communications to President Ortega saying that it is his responsibility to act with justice and to stop the repression. CEPAD has not yet received a response to these letters. The commitment of Christians is to justice, peace and reconciliation. We continue to pray for this but now we are preparing to accompany the victims of violence until we reach reconciliation for all who have been affected.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. Psalms 103:6